Each of us, as individuals, had a unique experience growing up. However, there are certain experiences that a lot of people have in common, especially if you shared similar circumstances.
These people on Reddit, who all grew up in low-income or very frugal families, came together to talk about the unspoken rules that were common in their homes.
We Sweat When We’re Alone!
“Air conditioning was only used when we had guests over.
“I lived in south Florida and didn’t know I could use the air conditioner without having someone over until I moved out of my parents’ home.” —Reddit / AwesomePossumID
That’s A Pretty Good Way To Live
“Nothing wasted! Mum had a dish called mixed-up stew which was basically a little mince beef, mashed potatoes, and any leftovers from the fridge. Good menu planning—she never called it that but one meal led to the next with last’s night leftovers included.
“Failing that, she always had a soup on the go using bones from chicken, dried barley, and, yet again, leftovers. The thing is: they were all delicious, but that could be me just remembering her fondly.” —Reddit / Barneyjoe
Hospital Visits Were Scarce
“Going to the doctor isn’t an option until your fever is sustained at 104°F, a bone is broken, or the tooth rotted and won’t fall out on its own.
“I am now in my late-30s with full insurance and still have a hangup about going for medical care.” —Reddit / gajillionaire
Those Parents Suck
“I guess just expecting to have to deal with other people’s rude parents sometimes.
“I grew up in a trailer. In fourth grade, a girl was having a birthday party and needed addresses for invitations. The next day she told me her parents uninvited me because I lived in the trailer. That was a new thing I learned I was supposed to be embarrassed about.” —Reddit / ohnoooooooooooooooo
Hard To Watch Your Friends Playing Soccer
“We weren’t allowed to do any kind of extracurricular activities.
“So, no instruments, no joining any kind of sports or girl scouts or anything that required an upfront investment for uniforms or the season.” —Reddit / march_rogue
You’re Expected To Be Grateful For Everything
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t like something you’re given (food, clothes, shoes, toys, etc.).
“You have to take it, say thank you, and be appreciative.” —Reddit / FriskyArtie
You’d Stay In The Library At School Instead
“You never brought the field trip permission slips home because you knew better than to make your mom feel guilty she couldn’t pay the $5–20 fee to let you go.” —Reddit / CoolMomInAMinivan
Missing out on field trips sucks, but as long as the kid was loved and had the essentials, I’m sure they turned out fine.
Don’t Be Greedy With Meals!
“You never ate the last of anything without asking first.
“Portions were small and limited. When I was 11 years old, I was invited over to a then friend’s house, and I was floored by how much food I was allowed to put on my plate.” —Reddit / OrianSun
There Weren’t Always Three Meals A Day
“There were so many times where we were told we were not eating lunch because we either ‘just ate breakfast’ or ‘dinners only a few hours away so you’ll be fine waiting.'” —Reddit / Tripleshot96
I wonder if they eat lunch now. Maybe they’re a brunch person.
I Still Act Like This As An Adult
“If someone buys you food at a restaurant, order as cheaply as possible even if they tell you to order whatever you want.
“I used to get death glares from my parents if I ordered something $10+ at a place where the average price was $10. If you can get a burger and fries for $8, you better be eating a burger.” —Reddit / RaphaelSolo
You Have To Choose Between Necessities
“Never completely fill up the gas tank in the car.
“There was always the risk that we could end up in the situation where we had gas in the car but no groceries.” —Reddit / nadjaannabel
There’s A Lot Of Secrecy Around it
“Never tell your friends that you couldn’t afford food or give them any clue about what it’s like at home.
“My mother used to ask me if I told anyone how we live and that’s when I started questioning our situation.” —Reddit / theguy4785
You Don’t Understand Many Things Until You’re Older
“Do not answer the door. Do not answer the phone. When the man is looking through the window, make sure you can’t be seen. Do not tell anyone who knocks on the door where the parents work.
“It turned out that my parents were trying to avoid debt collectors.” —Reddit / kbell2020
My Mom Would Die If She Saw Me In Ripped Jeans
“No wearing ripped jeans or any distressed clothing items, even if they are the style.
“My parents refused to spend money on new pants that look like old worn-out pants.” —Reddit / Abbreviations-Odd
You Paid In Favors
“No work on the house was ever done by a hired contractor or repairman. You either did it yourself, or you knew a guy. The guy you knew was either someone who would do it for cash or, more often, it was a relative or a friend of a relative who’d just rock up and tile your bathroom as a favor.
“You’d be expected to do these kinds of favors in turn, according to your skills. As the first of the millennial internet children in my family, I was shunted around various relatives’ houses in the early 2000s to set up their computers and teach them how to email.” —Reddit / mus_maximus
A Lot Of Necessities Were Disregarded
“My dad once said I wasn’t really in need of glasses and that I just wanted to look like all of my four-eyed friends.
“Spoiler alert: I totally did need them.” —Reddit / march_rogue
You Could Only Buy Things On Sale
“I can’t comprehend buying expensive clothes and even cheaper clothes I need to get on sale.
“Getting only one new school outfit a year as a kid makes me appreciate being able to buy clothes now but paying a lot for one item still doesn’t make much sense to me.” —Reddit / ThoughtIWasDale
It’s Hard To Be Clearly The Poorest Person In Your Class
“I was the scholarship/grant kid at a wealthy private school, so I was never allowed to invite people home because we didn’t have a mansion like everyone else did. Legit, when I went to sleepovers, they were in mansions.
“I could make playdates for the mall or the movies or we could meet at the amusement park my mom got free tickets to, but not invite them home. If I was getting dropped off, I had to think of an excuse for them not to come inside.” —Reddit / WorthyLocks
There Was A Strong Sense Of Community
“If your neighbors were in need—you helped them. Like, Mary’s car broke down again, so my brother would go work on her car for free on his day off, and I’d get up extra early all week to drop Mary off at work and get her kids to school. Swing by in my lunch break to grab the kids after school, too.
“Basically, when folks are in need—you help them, and the same is done in return.” —Reddit / sunranae
You Have To Get The Most Bang For Your Buck
“Not being able to wash your clothes until you could do a full, and I mean FULL machine.
“Getting a stain on a fresh shirt meant you were scrubbing it with soap over the sink.” —Reddit / GroundbreakingMove69
Make It Hard For People To Treat You As Lesser
“Stand up straight and speak with confidence.
“It was so easy for people to look down on the poor kids, so we made it just a bit harder for them.” —Reddit / steampunkedunicorn
It’s Common Courtesy
“Never EVER ask for anything at someone else’s house, even family.
“You may only accept something if offered it. This has made it extremely hard as an adult to interact in a world where you’re pretty much expected to say something if you want something.” —Reddit / mellowbordello
What’s Yours Always Also Belongs To The Family
“Hide money or it will be ‘borrowed.’
“Also, don’t get attached to anything because if it’s any good it’ll be sold in a yard sale, and if it has any value it will be pawned.” —Reddit / kitchenwitchen
Dreaming Is Actually Frowned Upon
“Keep your aspirations to yourself. Telling anyone in your household/social strata about your plans to get out and do better may be met with bitterness and downright ridicule.
“People will call you uppity for wanting to go to school or stupid for having a career goal that isn’t modest and local and vaguely dead-end. People will tell you that you have no common sense simply because you refuse to see the world in terms of pure survival.” —Reddit / hardly_trying
What Are You Supposed To Do With 12 Cucumbers?
“Every once in a while, you’d find a staggeringly good deal on something and just buy it in bulk.
“Suddenly you’d have to figure out how to eat eight zucchinis before they went bad, or make gnocchi every meal for two weeks.” —Reddit / mus_maximus
Leftovers Are Always To Be Saved For Another Meal
“It’s funny now seeing my leftovers as a bonus snack and not part of the next day’s meal.
“I had some weird lunches packed for me as a child-like cream cheese and olives in a burrito wrap.” —Reddit / Forgotwhyimhere69
Eldest Child Is Pushed Into A Caretaker Role
“What’s a babysitter? Latch Key Kid Here: I’m the oldest so I had to wake my brother up and get us ready for school and wait for him after school and make sure both of us got home safe. I had the house key around my neck to get us inside and start dinner for us.
“Both parents worked crazy hours for us to get by.” —Reddit / Throwaway-donotjudge
The Shame Hurts More Than The Circumstances Sometimes
“Don’t talk to anyone about being poor—it’s shameful.
“My siblings and I weren’t allowed to enjoy free breakfast programs for kids living in poverty that our schools hosted because it embarrassed my family.” —Reddit / Not-yo-ho-no-mo
Maintaining Pride Was Always Important
“We were always told to keep our hair brushed, our clothes clean, and be articulate and polite in all circumstances.
“We were not going to be ‘trash’ just because we were poor.” —Reddit / Abbreviations-Odd
You Really Do Learn A Lot
“Overall, we learned independence at a young age. You cook, clean, and pitch in before you are asked. If you’re waiting for an adult to make dinner, you’re going hungry.
“Seriously, I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for anything in the world.” —Reddit / math-yoo